Take In Stunning Glacier Views At This National Park In South America

In the southern part of Argentina close to the Chilean border lies Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park is a must-visit destination for those who want to experience incredible glaciers and Patagonian landscapes. Glaciers cover half of the park's 1,722 square miles .The other half consists of the 100-mile long Lake Argentino, along with arid grasslands, forests, rivers, waterfalls, and mountains. Jutting up from the northern end of the park is the iconic Cerro Fitz Roy, a more than 11,000-foot high jagged granite peak that's one of the toughest technical climbs in the world. While the entire area is spectacular, the glaciers are the main attraction here, giving the park its name. There are a whopping 356 glaciers in the park — that's nearly one for every day of the year. 

People might assume that glacial ice is stationary, but this is simply not true. Active glaciers are continuously shifting and advancing, making them fascinating to watch and to listen to. If you've ever heard the deafening boom of a nearby glacier calving, you know exactly what we mean. To experience the wonders of the glaciers for yourself in Los Glaciares National Park, you have a few options: You can go on foot, by boat, or by kayak. It all depends on how up close and personal you'd like to get with these ice giants.

Self-guided and guided walking tours

While you can see many glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park, you definitely shouldn't miss the Perito Moreno glacier— one of the few glaciers in the world that's actually growing rather than retreating. The best time to visit the Perito Moreno glacier is between November and March, and the easiest, most affordable way to see it is through a series of viewing balconies. Follow nearly 3 miles of walkways, wheelchair accessible for those who need it, to the balconies staggered throughout, providing different angles and vantage points for viewing and photographing the glacier. As you get closer, you'll notice the ice changing colors, with the dark stripes of sediment layers becoming more prominent and the brightening blues becoming almost iridescent. If you're lucky, you'll get to see and hear the glacier calving while traversing the maze of walkways.   

If you're adventurous, moderately fit, and between ages 8 and 65, there's no better way to experience the glacier than by walking on its surface — and you don't need previous ice climbing experience to do it. On a guided ice-trekking tour, you'll make your way with your guide and tour group across the top of the Perito Moreno glacier using some special safety equipment such as crampons and an ice axe. Once on the glacier, you'll discover a strange new world with ice falls, valleys, crevasses, and little streams of meltwater. Longer tours even visit ice caves. Guides are required on these tours to help you safely avoid any unstable areas and crevasses, so you can live to tell the tale of your Perito Moreno experience.

Boat and kayak tours

Another way to experience the glaciers is by boat on Lake Argentino. Boat safaris travel across the lake to bring you close to the face of the Perito Moreno and other glaciers, where you have a front row seat to any calving action. One advantage of the boat tours is that there are many different packages to choose from. There are one-hour trips, longer trips, and trips combining the boat safari with hiking and other activities. Some tours provide a little pampering while you're on the water, serving meals or refreshments like chocolate and glasses of whiskey over chunks of glacial ice. Other tours allow you to disembark and walk right up to the glacier and touch it — something children might especially enjoy. 

A more serene and private way to view the glaciers is via a kayak trip, also on Lake Argentino. In a kayak, you're on the surface of the water looking up at the wall of the glacier, which is a humbling experience. During a calving, you can feel the glacier shudder and rumble, and witness the massive spectacle of turbulence unfolding in the water (all from a safe distance, of course). You can also paddle around icebergs and explore other features of the aquatic landscape as an added bonus. However you choose to explore the glaciers of Los Glaciares National Park, whether on foot or on the water, you'll be awed by the experience, and it may be one of the most memorable things you do in Patagonia.